Posted: 24 November 2022

Propelling a business forward with an MBO

Propelling a business forward with an MBO

Andy Morgan led a management buyout of Smart Capital Technology (SCT) in March 2022. Despite being “warned” about the challenges of working with private equity investors, he says the WestBridge team has been an exceptionally supportive partner. Here he sets out the background to the deal and gives a glimpse into why it has won numerous private equity industry awards.

I joined SCT as CFO in early 2020. At the time, the company was 18 years old and wholly owned by the two founders who had appointed me specifically to prepare the business for sale.

Within our industry, SCT are described as an ‘Inventory-as-a-Service’ (IaaS) provider that works exclusively with the channel. In layman’s terms, if a company has an IT issue involving hardware, they will typically call their IT support provider who will then call us to get on-site to either repair or replace the relevant parts. This simple explanation belies the complexity of what we do!  Our network of storage and distribution locations and IT engineers covers the whole of Europe and the US and we can deliver our rapid service within as little as two hours of receiving the initial call.

The service we provide is considered critical to the ‘end-users’ who include government departments and large companies in the healthcare, financial, retail and more.  Without our rapid support, they would suffer major disruption to the running of their organisation.

Harnessing untapped potential

I was operating outside of the traditional CFO role and threw myself into operating the business with the founders. I could see a significant market and a business that has huge potential for growth so put myself forward to lead a management buyout.

My leadership experience within the role and previously from a PLC in the software and services sector gave everyone sufficient confidence in my capability, and so the process to find an investor began.

Very quickly it became clear that SCT was an attractive proposition.  Of the ten private equity firms we met with, nine made offers.

We favoured WestBridge from the off for a number of reasons. The team was extremely well prepared and everyone had clearly done their research into our market. They came with many pertinent questions and weren’t afraid to challenge us about certain aspects of the business which gave us real food for thought. 

Evidencing added value

They were also able to demonstrate how they had added value to other companies in a similar situation to ours and painted a compelling picture of how the future might look for SCT.

Aside from these ‘technical’ capabilities, I really liked everyone in the WestBridge team and found them very engaging. If you’re planning on working closely with someone for a few years, it’s pretty essential you get on!  

Nine months on, I’m confident we made the right decision in choosing WestBridge. 

It’s been invaluable having someone else’s perspective and input around the boardroom table.  The Value Creation Model devised by WestBridge has been game changing. It provides a structured, systematic and strategic framework for identifying and building value across all areas of the business.

It has clearly contributed. We’ve already added new services, expanded our network into the Nordics, attracted new customers and seen growth of 20%.

Supporting further growth with key appointments

With support from WestBridge, we’re also building out the management team and have already appointed a sales and marketing director, finance director and added a chair, all critical roles to support our continued growth.

We’ve also set clear strategic objectives for the future and created roadmaps to achieving them. These include geographic expansion; the development of digital platforms and the expansion of our service offer to include networking, server and storage and device as a service.

The balance of involvement from the WestBridge team is just right – they are certainly interested and engaged but have given me and the management team the freedom and autonomy to run the business.

I’ve been asked many times in recent months what advice I’d give others considering an MBO. I’ve distilled it down to three key things: 

  • be prepared for root and branch scrutiny of every nook and cranny of your business - don’t try to hide anything you perceive as negative as investors leave no stone unturned;
  • keep your circle small and don’t involve too many people – if you’re well prepared you should be able to minimise distractions;
  • don’t take your eye off the day-to-day trading and operations of the business - your customers must remain your focus. Take your eye of the ball and the whole process could be derailed.  

Several people had warned me that involving private equity investors would likely be a challenging experience.  I’m pleased to say that nothing could be further from the truth.  WestBridge has been a supportive and constructive partner. Last month, our MBO picked up three industry awards and was named Deal of the Year at two separate events.  Clearly, we’re doing something right!

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